“Your bonsai can outlive you – theoretically”
“The oldest bonsai in the national collection is over 300 years old. The bonsai
is a White Pine that is affectionately known as the Yamaki Pine, in honor of its
donor, Masaru Yamaki. The Yamaki began its life in the 1600s and, despite
being less than five miles away from the impact site, it survived the atomic
bomb blast at Hiroshima, Japan, in 1945.
Can A Bonsai Tree Live Forever?
Trees, in general, can and will outlive all of us - many times over. The giant
redwood trees, indigenous to the West Coast of the United States, are some
of the oldest living creatures on the planet. It is understandably difficult for
some people to equate or associate a 200 ft. tall redwood tree with a 12 in.
tall bonsai tree, but nevertheless they are both trees. In the case of bonsai
trees, the simple fact that they are "trees" genetically, and "bonsai" trees by
way of human intervention, gives them the innate capability, under favorable
circumstances, to live for several centuries - at least and forever -
Of course, there are scores of circumstances and variables, some controllable
and many others not, that all have the potential to enable or to prevent a
tree, be it a bonsai or not, from living for very long. “
“A tree in nature and growing under what we will assume are ‘perfect’
conditions, will grow until it reaches the natural predetermined height for that
species. Once this height has been realized, the tree commences its natural
habit of growing or, to put it another way, spreading sideways, enabling the
tree to support as much foliage as possible. After centuries of this continued
growth pattern, what happens is that the distance between the active and
effective roots at the edge of the trees root system and the now massive
amount of foliage at the incalculable number of branch tips is just too vast.
As a result of this natural process, the tree starts to weaken and will
eventually die. Why? Because the foliage has grown too far away from the
active roots - its leaves are now receiving inadequate amounts of life giving
water and nutrients and, in turn, the leaves are unable to supply sufficient
sugars to the root system. In due course, this course being centuries long,
the heartwood will rot and the tree will collapse.”
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“How Can A Bonsai Live Forever?
The main difference between a bonsai tree and a tree growing naturally in
the wild, as mentioned above, is human intervention. A tree in nature,
growing in perfect conditions, will grow until it reaches the maximum
dimensions for that species, with consideration given to the specific
environmental conditions that it is exposed to, and inevitably it will die.
Conversely, a bonsai tree, which it is not a ‘species’ of tree, but rather a
traditional set of techniques and styles for growing and caring for a tree -
almost any kind of tree can be trained as a ‘bonsai’ tree - is prevented from
ever reaching its maximum dimensions through regularly pruning of both the
root system and branch structure. A non-bonsai example of this pruning
technique extending the life of a tree is that of trees that are grown as
hedge. Hedges live much longer than their full-size counterparts growing in
their natural habitat, because they are never allowed to reach their maximum
dimensions. My Aunt Agnes still lives in the home that her father built and the
hedges that separate their property lines were planted by her grandfather
before the war - World War Two! While the practice of trimming hedges is
not exactly like the practices of branch and root pruning in a traditional
bonsai sense, it is a good ‘Western’ gardening style example of how the life
of a tree can be extended through regular and careful human intervention.”
“So, Then, How Does One Keep A Bonsai Alive Forever?
Trees that are being: grown, nurtured, trained, and developed using
traditional bonsai techniques have the very real potential of living forever. The
reason this potential exists is because a bonsai grown by a professional (and
so must yours for the same incredible results to be possible) is cared for very
precisely and very meticulously. On a daily basis the every need of the bonsai
are met, starting with the essentials of proper watering and sunlight
And on a seasonal basis, the bonsai's health is monitored and maintained
through the observation and pruning of the trees root system. This enables
potential problems to be seen and addressed before they can jeopardize the
health of the bonsai and the pruning encourages the development of healthy
new roots. The branch structure is also monitored and maintained on a
regular basis, allowing branches to be removed if they are deemed as
possibly dangerous to the tree and beneficial new shoots are allowed to grow
so that they may benefit the future health of the tree. “
“This careful and calculated care management keeps the bonsai in a constant
state of growth, because the bonsai, just like its full-size cousin on the front
lawn, is genetically programmed to achieve maturity. The essential difference
is: by preventing the bonsai from reaching maturity, you are preventing it
from ever reaching old age and falling victim to the troubles that inevitably go
along with aging process.
A bonsai tree - your bonsai tree - if given the proper and essential care, will
always remain healthy, growing, and youthful. And, if everyone that is
responsible for its care, after you become mulch, continues to care for it
properly, it will and should outlive them, as well!”
                                                                                     By Tom Regan
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